On the first weekend of every month, the empty, cobbled street of Palmerston Road becomes filled with colour and life as the market stalls move in. It becomes a cultural centre of delicious delicacies and twinkling trinkets.
Since 2008, Love Southsea has been a well-loved part of Portsmouth, celebrating the life of the city as well as promoting and encouraging local companies and businesses. The markets were created to give visitors another reason to visit this seaside sanctuary. Since their creation, they have grown rapidly in popularity.
It started at the Square Tower but has now moved to the busy high street where 13,000 shoppers visit each market day. Although I’m sure this reaches 20,000 when the weather is hot and the bandstand is making lots of noise. Well, that certainly seemed the case for this month’s market.
I normally go every month to treat myself to the great food. It’s also fun and a great reason to leave the house. The last few months, especially the colder ones, were scarce of visitors and sellers. But not this month. It was the busiest I have ever seen it. Palmerston Road was jammed with people in tank tops and shorts, squinting through sunglasses and reeking of suncream. The stalls were back to back. A few buskers dotted here and there, adding to the noise that drifted over from the bandstand. And, in anticipation of the upcoming election, Lib Dem and Labour candidates talked to visitors, handing out leaflets and shaking hands.
It’s a blend of the best bits from all around the world. There is Venezuelan food, Jamaican, Turkish and British as well as sweets, drinks and handcrafted gifts from places such as Palestine. I even saw a few food stalls that sold vegan and vegetarian food so there was literally something for everyone.
I parked just down the road and as I walked up I noticed a very familiar looking van. It was a big white one and on the side was the logo for my favourite hot dog company – Heavenly Sausage. I had their hot dogs at the previous market and they were indeed, heavenly. I hurried up my pace like an eager child and made my way to where all the hustle and bustle was taking place.
I found the stand immediately. Rock music blared from it as a queue lined up out the front. A flaming sausage sign hung above their heads with their name in lights. They offered dumplings and a choice of two sausages at £6 each, chicken or pork. I ordered a pork one and they flame grilled it in front of me, placed it in a bun and asked me what I would like on top. There was a lot of choice – coleslaw, pickle, ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce, cheese, fried onions or dried onions. I had coleslaw, ketchup, cheese, mustard and onions. The hot dog was handed to me and I looked at it a touch of dread. How was I going to fit something that big in my mouth?
I took a giant bite and spend the next fifteen minutes chewing and swallowing, trying to finish off the foot long hotdog, packed with meaty, spicy flavour. Ketchup and mustard dripped down my chin and some of the coleslaw fell onto my dress. I made a right mess. I should have packed a napkin or, better yet, an apron.
Moving on I checked out the other stalls that also boasted tasty treats and other eye-catching items. To the right of me was a jerk chicken seller who had giant pans of meat, steaming and sizzling away. I watched people walk away with mouthfuls of chicken, mmmming with every bite. I saw a stand with middle eastern gifts and bandanas, raising money for Palestine so I bought a small wooden keyring.
On the right-hand side of the market were several other gift stalls. One sold tie-dye shirts, crystals and incense, another with handcrafted bangles and rings and another with handmade bunting. They were colourful and spelt out ‘home sweet home’ or ‘Southsea’. One was made of blue and white material with the Pompey crest on either side and ‘play up pompey’ in between. They were very sweet and the perfect gift for anyone proud of Portsmouth. For some reasons I didn’t buy one and I’ve been kicking myself since. Hopefully, they will be at the next one.
I then saw fudge. On the stand was about ten boxes of thick fudge pieces with flavours such as Nutella and even Toffee Vodka. The man and lady were very kind and helpful, offering me tasters of each and handing me a business card.
“We’ve been going to markets like this since March so we’re quite new, find us on Facebook of Instagram under Ministry of Fudge.”
“Only if you’re any good,” I joked as I stuffed a hefty amount of tablet into a bag. It came to £7 in total which was reasonable considering how much I left with. I sat in front of the TV that night and gorged on it all. I didn’t find much difference between the flavours apart from a slight tanginess from the Toffee Vodka. They were all gorgeous and melted in your mouth. So I guess I will find them on Facebook and Instagram after all.
I bought a chocolate twist from a Mediterranean patisserie and a pint of freshly made strawberry lemonade from The Island Lemonade Co. I bought some chutney from The Cherry Tree who sells jams, cheese and curds. I wasn’t a fan of their garlic chutney, which tasted like chicken tikka, but their caramelised onion one was beautiful. It was the right blend of sweet and sour and will go perfectly with the leftover crackers in my kitchen.
There were countless more other stalls that I spied but I couldn’t afford to spend any more. Bath bombs, tea towels, artwork, necklaces and t-shirts were some of the many things you could buy. Love Southsea had their own stall where you could get one of their iconic anchor and swallow shirts. If you want to treat yourself or buy a gift for someone then this is certainly the place. When else do you get so much all at once, with no one thing being the same?
If you want to treat yourself or buy a gift for someone then this is certainly the place. When else do you get so much all at once, with no one thing being the same?
Each month there is always something different too and before I have bought Venezuelan wraps with chicken and avocado, topped with garlic sauce and cheese. Sadly I can’t remember the company’s name but it was incredible and certainly not something you can get every day. Another seller I haven’t seen in a while is award-winning, photographer Johnny Black who would sell his vibrant, stunning photos of Portsmouth.
Nothing is perfect but this market does come close. The only issue is that all the food portions are very large. It’s fine if you are after a quick lunch fix but if you are like me and want to try everything, it can become problematic. Most of the hot food is priced at roughly £5 which is fine until you want to try everything. I wouldn’t be able to eat it all, let alone afford it. Maybe the companies should do smaller plates for a few pounds. It would make mine and every other greedy, indecisive person’s life a lot easier.
Next month, on the 15th and 16th July, the market will be bigger and better, morphing into their annual food festival which encompasses not only Palmerston road but Osbourne road too. It will be an unmissable opportunity to explore a tasty, new part of our city.
So, if you want to enjoy Southsea to it’s fullest then definitely make this market a stop on your own Southsea food tour…